ECC okays Rs40 billion taxes on imports

IshaqDar

Harris Javed/Islamabad:  The ECC of the Cabinet met here on Monday under the Chairmanship of Minister for Finance, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar and approved the proposal of Revenue Division for additional revenue measures worth Rs.40 billion.

The measures relate to imposition/enhancement of regulatory duty on a number of imported items including cars above 1000 CC. While approving the additional measures, the Committee made certain that items of common man’s use are not adversely affected by the changes.

On a proposal submitted by the Ministry of National Food Security & Research, the ECC approved imposition of 30% Regulatory Duty on import of maize. The decision has been taken in view of the abundant maize stock available in the country and noticeable difference between price in local market and international market. The ECC also approved the proposal of Ministry of Naitonal Food Security, for fixation of Minuimum Guaranteed Price of Rs.1300 per 40 KG for procurement of wheat crop 2015-16.

 

On a proposal from the Federal Board of Revenue the ECC approved extension in time period for 0.3% reduced rate of advance income tax(WHT) on non-filers up to 31 December 2015.

 

The ECC aIso approved the proposal of Federal Board of Revenue for grant of exemption of duties and taxes for the equipment to be installed at IC3 facility at Port Qasim. The exemption was granted in pursuance of a bilateral agreement. The installation of the equipment would benefit Pakistani exports as it provided single step clearance for all US bound export cargo using scanners with sophisticated technology.

Blackberry quits operation in Pakistan from today

blackberry

CorporateAmbassador/SLAMABAD: BlackBerry will not operate in Pakistan after Nov 30, Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard said in a statement posted at the smartphone makers’ website.

“Pakistan’s demand for open access to monitor a significant swath of our customers’ communications within its borders left us no choice but to exit the country entirely,” Beard said.

The COO said the company made the move because “remaining in Pakistan would have meant forfeiting our commitment to protect our users’ privacy”.

Beard said: “In July, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority notified the country’s mobile phone operators that BlackBerry’s BES servers would no longer be allowed to operate in the country starting in December ‘for security reasons’.”

PTA officials said that BlackBerry has been cooperating with security agencies of other countries, but despite requests from Pakistani authorities, they were not cooperating in accordance with the National Action Plan formulated after the Dec 16, 2014, Taliban attacks on Peshawar’s Army Public School.

Unfettered access to user data: Blackberry COO said the Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) traffic in the country, including emails and BlackBerry Messenger messages.

 

Pakistan’s demand was not a question of public safety; we are more than happy to assist law enforcement agencies in investigations of criminal activity. Rather, Pakistan was essentially demanding unfettered access to all of our BES customers’ information,” the COO said.

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Global internet population depicts manifold growth

Despite being the 5th largest country in population, Pakistan is far behind in many Asian and other countries in the ranking of internet users.

Internet in Asia

Special Report by Javed Mahmood/Corporate Ambassador, Islamabad _ Global internet population has manifested manifold growth during the past 15 years, from 2000-2015. By Nov 15, 2015, the number of internet users in the world had surged to 3.345 billion plus, from just 360 million in the year 2000. From 2000-2015 (till Nov), the internet population showed a marvelous growth of 827 percent growth.

Asia continued to lead the world in the ambit of the internet users with 1.611 billion plus users in 2015, up from 114 million in the year 2000. Asian region reflect 1309 percent growth in the internet population during this period. Enrique de Argaez, CEO, Miniwatts Marketing Group, shared the latest data of the World Internet Stats about global internet population with Corporate Ambassador today (Nov 30, 2015).

World internet Stats Graph2015

As present, total internet population in the world is 3,345,832,772 (3.345 billion+) _ 327.145 million internet users belong to Africa; 1.611 billion+ belong to Asia; 604.147 million are in Europe; 123.172 million are in Middle East; 313.867 million are in North America; 77.076 million are using internet in Central America; 17.655 million are in the Caribbean; 244.519 million are in South Smerica, 27.20 million in OCEANIA/Australia, etc.

About 47.8 percent internet users are in the Asia countries and 52.2 percent belong to rest of the world. Internet users’ estimate is based on data available till June 30, 2015. Europe’s share in the global internet population on Nov 15, 2015, is 18.1 percent, Latin America/Caribbean 10.1 percent, Africa 9.8 percent, North America 9.4 percent, Middle East 3.7 percent and 0.8 percent share of Oceania/Australia.

Among the Asian countries, China holds 43.1 percent share in the internet population, to be the number-one country, followed by India because of their advantage of big population (China 1.27 billion people, India 1.25 billion people); 22.6 percent users, Japan 7.4 percent, Indonesia 4.7 percent, Philippines 3 percent, Bangladesh and South Korea 2.9 percent each, Pakistan 1.9 percent, etc.

World Internet Stats Nov 2015

Despite being the 5th largest country in population in the world, Pakistan seems far behind than many Asia countries as far as the users of internet and Facebook is concerned. Pakistan’s share in the internet users in the world is just 1.9 percent as 29.128 million people are using internet out of a population of over 200 million by June 2015.

Actual internet users are more

Brief interviews with friends and colleagues shows that the actual number of users of the internet in Pakistan and other countries is much more than the data of the World Internet Stats. The WIS considers one connection as one user whereas, a whole family, comprising from 3 to 10 persons, are using one internet with Wi-Fi facility, Shahnaz Chaudhry told Corporate Ambassador.

We are five family members and all are using one internet connection, but as per international standard only our internet connection will be calculated in the number of users and not the whole family,” she said.

Same is the case of offices, where several persons working in the same office are using one internet connection irrespective of the fact that they use internet at home or not or they have their own internet connection or not.

Facebook Users in World (Dec 2012)

The number of Facebook users in Pakistan are also on low-side _ only 7.984 million Pakistanis are using Facebook against 62.713 million in India, 51.096 million in Indonesia, 29.89 million in Philippines, 13.24 million in Taiwan, 17.721 million in Thailand, 13.589 million in Malaysia, 10.012 million in South Korea and 10.669 million in Vietnam.

Note: The story will be updated further after availability of official data of internet users in Pakistan from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Bribery – The Curse on Education in Pakistan

currency

Zeeshan Shah/KARACHI: The Constitution of Pakistan contains visible solutions on improving education in the country but despite the advent of laws and various amendments, practical outcomes remain dormant and negligible efforts have been seen in this matter.

Many children around the world live in crisis situations, the causes of which are out of their family’s control. They can be affected by natural disasters but are more significantly more impacted by man-made disasters and hence, often have to deal with a range of losses. Children in conflict today are suffering from a wide range of man-made problems and epidemics in violation of their basic rights as children. In essence, child rights are human rights that are being violated without empathy on part of their parents, teachers, neighbors, the society and above all the government itself.

Education as a basic-right of the child is not being given to children in Pakistan. In 1990 when the Global Treaty now known as the CRC- convention of the Rights of the Child was being formulated, Pakistan was one of the first countries to ratify the treaty and become the signatory to this convention. More so on the political ambit than any other, our serving Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was Co-Chair of that particular global summit at the time and that primarily drove the government on an early sign off. Beyond that theory, nothing much has ever been done to bring up the systematic improvement when it comes to the practicality of the treaty.

Under Article 31 of the CRC, we must create space and time for play and recreation in schools and play spaces for children and make children get more involved in cultural and artistic activities which helps groom the child on the “ Whole Child “ approach , above and beyond just academics and grading systems. Children today see their “Play Spaces” being marginalized (homes and schools) and relationships (friends and families) leading to reduced and restricted opportunities for free-play. Culturally, the child today is far more isolated than ever due to paradigm shift in family structures from a previous joint family system into a nuclear family system, relying more on parental guidance today than ever before.

 

Bribery in education hence becomes the first and foremost challenge for this country establishing a direct link between corruption and child rights. Here is how the link is created. In Pakistan, less than 2% of the GDP is spent on Education where over 21% percent is being spent on defense. It is ironic to see here that the actual defense mechanism or the root-defense of the country is the children of the country that is being

ignored blatantly and with immense cruelty, year after year by the government. Another factor that leads to corruption is the fact that whatever little otherwise that is actually spent within the sector is being eaten away by corruption. Our government school system is completely destroyed as no one sends their children to those schools due to lack of quality of teachers, unhygienic school environment, lack of funds to build a minimum acceptable infrastructure, poor premises upkeep and non-productive administration and faculty at schools and colleges. Hence, almost every other parent is relying on either private schooling or schools being run by NGOs.

 

In the past 10 years in Sind alone, hundreds of public schools have been abandoned and abundantly destroyed by poor or no governance. Teachers are not accounted for, illegal appointment of teachers is rampant, merit is a non-entity and no teacher training has been imparted to meet acceptable regional or global education standards. The text book board of Sind is not equipped with capable linguistic experts, unqualified or fake degree holders recruited as instructors and teachers and the emergence of Ghost Schools. Cultural inhibitions also reduce the level further as most women are not encouraged to send the daughters to school as they are illiterate themselves. Over 53% of the country is women alone- how can the education become a basic child right when the women of that country are being pushed back into illiteracy by this culture of ignorance and no legal remedy available to women.

Article 25-A of the constitution of Pakistan states “ the state or the government is responsible to provide free education to all children irrespective of their social or community status , from the ages of 6-12 across the country”. Now having formulated this under law, practically this is far from being achieved as the system does not bind the government to ensure how that child will be sent to school as they themselves manipulate the system to create the above mentioned conditions that actually leads to the failure of the subject Article from being implemented. This is due to the immense corruption in the Education Sector. Last year, the education ministry of the province recruited thousands of under-qualified teachers without following the due-diligence and actually inducted them on board, without following basic rules and regulations or selection criteria purely on political pressure and through major bribes.

 

Over 100,000 to 500,000 rupees were usurped by the government and jobs were given to those teachers in return for the bribes taken. The same teachers were later suspended by the next education minister which led to citywide and countrywide protests, covered by the media leading to a legal battle that is still pending in the courts. Till date, those teachers are still not fully functional on the jobs as they were not hired on merit in the first place despite paying huge sums of bribes to the higher ups in the ministry.

 

Recently when the teachers protested in the streets against illegal postings, lack of funds, poor salaries and nepotism, they were public harassed by government officials and also put behind bars. This kind of illegal activity has been flourishing in the education system for decades, undeterred and under-reported. The five basic reasons for this unstoppable and ruthless corruption include 1 ) No political will to resolve the conflict; 2) Loss of hope; 3) Lack of resources; 4) Internal and External prejudice; 5) Exploitation by business 6) . All of them are linked to one outcome- Bribery. Millions of funds that are given by external agencies or support funds are not allocated to the sector as funds are illegally extorted or pulled out of the system by the very people who have been hired to protect the system. This includes the Bureaucracy, Government and the Judiciary- leading to one of the worst example of Governance in the history of the Bribery in education is also one of the basic reasons that the country was never ever able to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the SDGs- sustainable development goals in Education-failing beyond expectations on global levels. This has become as a source of embarrassment for the country and its helpless children. Recently, the president of Pakistan announced that Rs.250 will be spent on every poor child on a monthly basis to acquire education. How can a child acquire education for the entire month in just Rs250, when the cost of education per child including his books, clothes and daily lunch costs a lot more? Is this the was to help 6.7 million children achieve basic education when the same government has done nothing to create a minimum acceptable environment around the children in their schools and continue to ignore the bribery culture that remains unchanged. The Benazir-income support program has to be further tightly monitored by honest and committed people to ensure that it is not being politically misused under the lens of corruption.

 

Today, our children are failing helplessly not because they remain illiterate but because the most literate people who are at the helm of affairs given the responsibility to ensure justice in education, are themselves part of the biggest ring of corruption, exposing the Bribery in Education as the major reason for the poor education standards and poor hopes for the children of the country. Child Rights therefore remain dysfunctional in Pakistan as long the curse of bribery is not eradicated permanently from the core.

 

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About the writer: Zeeshan Shah – is a writer on international relations and foreign policy _ E mail: shahze111@gmail.com

Exports, Imports show consistent decline in 2015

Pakistan’s exports have dropped by over 13 percent in first four months of the ongoing financial year. Imports also fell more than 12% during July-Oct 2015 as against the quantum of imports in the corresponding period of 2014.

Decline in value of most of the commodities in the international markets, including fuel oil, cooking oil and other commdoties that led to decline in imports and exports in 2015.

Here is the data of foreign trade of Pakistan for July-Oct 2014 and 2015 for quick comparison of external trade.

Foreign Trade 4 months 2015

Immoral TV shows: LHC issues notice to PEMRA

PEMRA PBA codes

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has issued a notice to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on a petition against exhibition of ‘immoral’ dramas, programmes and movies on television channels.

Zhaudhry Zaheeruddin, a retired major has filed the petition stating that Pemra authorities during the hearing of his application admitted that private TV channels had been showing immoral content. He said the Pemra had failed to implement its code on media organisations.

The petitioner contended that the objectionable content had been badly affecting innocent minds of the young generation. He sought court’s order for Pemra to ensure implementation of its code on TV channels with respect to content.

Chief Justice Ijazul Ahsan directed the Pemra to submit a detailed report about implementation of its code on TV channels by Jan 4.

Global Islamic banking assets expand to $1.8 trillion with 17% annual growth, says Dar

Islamic products

J. Choudhry/KARACHI: Islamic finance has significant footprint in Asia and Middle East and is ready for growth in South America, Europe, North America, Central Asia and Australia. Its global assets have grown considerably, to US$ 1.8 trillion in 2014 with an average annual growth rate of about 17 percent since 2009.

“Our faith and conviction, it goes without saying, in the future of the Islamic financial system, has been strengthened by this rapid rise in the Islamic mode of financing at home, in Muslim countries and in advanced economies, demonstrating its universal application,” Finance Minister Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar stated this while addressing the 60th anniversary of IBA in Karachi.

ishaq-dar

I am pleased to inaugurate the Centre for Excellence in Islamic finance at this prestigious higher educational institution today. This centre at IBA, Karachi, which is an embodiment of active collaboration between academia and banking industry, will play the vital role in  translating  Islamic principles into Shariah-compliant business practices. I hope the centre’s success will serve as an example for more academia – industry collaborations in this and other fields that are needed for the country to progress much faster.

First of all, let me congratulate all those who have been associated with IBA on the occasion of its 60th anniversary which you are celebrating this year. IBA is one of the premier institutions of this country which has played a key role not only  in providing leaders to our corporate sector but also in public life. I know our President, Mr. Mamnoon Husain, is an alumnus of this institution.

Dar said that Islamic banking has a great future as the current global financial architecture has failed to deliver stability, solidarity and sustainability to the financial system. The demand for an alternate system has picked up speed since the crisis of 2008-09. Academics, practitioners, regulators and legislators are seeking solutions that can assure that financial crises are not repeated. Islamic banking is an attractive candidate to present itself as an anchor of financial stability and social purposefulness.

Islamic finance is well suited for this purpose because it significantly associates finance with the real economy, is anathema for speculation and does not provide financing for unethical, illegal and immoral activities, he said, adding its links with stability and social usefulness are therefore strong and robust.

The current international situation is also providing a huge impetus to regional trade and economic co-operation. Located as Pakistan is in a region in close proximity to the Muslim countries with brotherly ties forged over decades, we are in a privileged position to promote Islamic financing. We need to develop new banking products, expertise and skills – to fill in the required gaps – with the help of the GCC countries and Malaysia and other brotherly countries. This can serve as a catalyst for much bigger trade and economic co-operation among Muslim countries.

“I would like to commend the State Bank of Pakistan for taking this initiative of filling in the gap of human resources and expertise in Islamic finance by setting up these centres of Excellence in Islamic Finance at three most reputable institutions of Pakistan i.e IBA, Karachi; LUMS, Lahore and IMS, Peshawar,” he said.

I hope these centres will work with a vision to  nurture, develop and build the capacity of the existing Islamic financial institutions and also provide a continuous pipeline for the future needs of expansion of this industry. The  opportunity and potential of the domestic industry in  playing  a pioneering role in developing Islamic financial system and helping it acquire a unique position in fostering international business can only be realized with the help of trained manpower.

 

Our government is committed to the cause of increasing Islamic finance and has taken various steps in this direction in the past two years. Establishing of a Steering Committee under the leadership of Mr. Saeed Ahmed, the Deputy Governor of SBP, the recent launch of Karachi All share Islamic Index, Setting up an Islamic Finance Department in SECP, issuance of sukuk and Islamic capital market reforms are some of the efforts in this regard.

The Ministry of Finance is taking steps to make shariah compliant financing its first choice in infrastructure building and long term financing needs. In line with the strategic vision to increase the share of Islamic banking to 20% of total banking, the Government of Pakistan is also committed to reduce its debt financing from conventional to Islamic modes by 20 – 40 percent. The centre can assist the government in capacity building in this regard.

With banking penetration of 13% (according to World Bank) in Pakistan, banks have a huge untapped potential to increase financial inclusion. Islamic banks have the risk sharing modes which can be developed to support SME and agricultural financing. With branchless banking and mobile banking making inroads, the situation is ripe with opportunity. Some of the voluntary exclusion due to shariah concerns can be alleviated by Islamic banks.

The centre can also play a positive role in serving the objectives of financial inclusion through human resource development in the field of Islamic microfinance, SME financing and agricultural financing and provide the HR thrust needed to take the industry forward. Poverty alleviation and redressal of income inequalities in Pakistan can be effectively addressed through these vehicles of financing and Islamic financing which relies upon a flexible mode of repayment can drive these vehicles.

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Muslims arrange money to secure release of Hindu prisoners

PakIndia flags

BAREILLY: As the controversy rages over “intolerance” in the country, here is a group of Muslim men who have quietly done for 15 Hindu men what even their own kin could not.

The Muslim men pooled in money to be able to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 to secure the release of the Hindu prisoners languishing for want of money in the district jail. They had been lodged in jail on charges of petty crime like ticketless travel. Unable to cough up the fine to make reparation for their misdeeds, the men were serving an additional sentence. Once the money was paid, the 15 men walked out free birds.

Outside the jail, the Muslims who paid for their release welcomed them into freedom with a warm embrace. As the 15 men stepped out of jail on Wednesday evening, there were smiles and tears all around, TOI reported on Friday.

One of the inmates, Nand Kishore, had served out the period of his sentence for ticketless travel, but was not released as he failed to pay a Rs1,000-fine. But as he left the jail premises and strode towards home, Haji Yasin Qureshi and his friends, all Muslims, hugged him and walked along.

Qureshi shrugged off the effusive gratitude that the men showed him and his friends, and said it is just the Almighty who needs to be thanked. He told the 15 men that they should swear never to repeat their mistakes.

The Muslim men had also made arrangements for Nand Kishore’s travel back to his native village. He was given a small sum as “pocket money” too. His eyes moist, Kishore bid the Muslim youth adieu as jail staffers watched, awe-struck.

Among the others to taste freedom were Ajay Kumar, Kishan Sagar, Pappu and Tilak. All of them were warmly embraced as they emerged from the jail, all deeply moved by the gesture of their benefactors who had come to their aid in a time of crisis.

Qureshi, who led the group that collected funds for the release of the men, told TOI on Thursday, “When we learnt of their plight from jail authorities, we decided that we should do what we could. We are never guided by the feeling that our efforts should be directed only towards members of our own community. We believe that if we help in releasing a man from captivity, Allah will bless us. Moreover, what better occasion than a time when there is all this talk about who should live in this country and who should leave.”

Haji Mohd Anees, a businessman, who too had contributed to the release of the men, said, “Sahib yeh to hamara watan hai aur Hindu hamare bhai hain. Hum yahin paida huwey hai aur yahin khaak mein milengey” (This is our land too, Hindus are our brothers. We were born here, we will be buried here and mix with the soil here.)

BR Maurya, superintendent of the Bareilly district jail, said, “The 15 inmates were charged with petty crimes. Some were arrested on apprehension of breach of peace. They were serving out sentences ranging from 6 months to 10 years. The majority of them had served out the full sentence, but could not pay the fine imposed on them by the court.”

The Jolting Stills _ Play Review

 

Playreview

Reviewed by Waqas Aziz/KARACHI: In connection to NAPA Young Directors Theatre Festival, the well admired play “Time Stands Still” , written by Donald Margulies, was  presented by a group of young students.  The play, revolving around changing relationships and developing social issues, was really a feast for literary souls and theatre goers. It is worthy of mentioning that the original play was nominated for two Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Laura Linney.

playreview2

Time Stands Still is set in  Brooklin and spins around Sarah, a photo journalist who has returned from covering the Iraq war after being injured by a roadside bomb, and her reporter boyfriend James who is swamped by guilt after leaving Sarah alone in Iraq. They receive a visit from their friend Richard, a photo editor, who introduces them to his new girlfriend Mandy, who is much younger than he. The play focuses on their relationships and Sarah and James’ prospects at a more conventional life. Director I.R. Omer, who has acted in a number of Napa plays and worked extensively with KopyKats Productions, has incorporated fluidity among all his characters. All   the four actors Hammad Sartaj, Sonia Ashraf, Malika Zafar  and Omer himself performed well  except a few occasional lapses in demonstrating emotional buffets properly. Hammad was as usual leading the praise trail.

The venture was, no doubt, reasonably inspiring, for the most part the character and performance of James was excellent. The play highlighted two different pictures of love. One between Sara and James which was not a success due to some reasons such as pre- assumptions of Sara for her boyfriend that he would never come to her she was involve with another person Tariq who died later. The other reason was after her marriage with James she was not interested in making their complete family. Moreover their profession hindered the relationship to go on. On the other hand there was another picture of love between Richard and Mandy. Despite the fact that there was a big age difference, they both took care of each other’s feelings and emotions they proved that age doesn’t have any point in the matter of love; actually it is all about how well we take care and value each other. As they both proved to be with each other and having complete family.